Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Self defeating security

21 March, 2010

Earlier this week, I was trying to sort out problems with a plugin for Microsoft Outlook 2007. While editing the registry to remove the key for the offending item, I noticed another key: Redemption · ·. This looked a little odd and, fearing that I had an infection, I did a little investigation.

It turns out that Redemption is a tool for developers of Outlook plugins, that “works around limitations imposed by the Outlook Security Patch and Service Pack 2 of MS Office 98/2000 and Office 2002/2003/2007/2010 (which include Security Patch).” The developers of Redemption do advise a number of precautions to take, in order to mitigate the risk arising from their tool. As an end-user of Outlook, though, you are largely at the mercy of the developer of the plugin that installed it, and have to sincerely hope that they have enabled these features. If not, the one who gets redeemed with be the malware writer.

I have no experience of developing Outlook plugins, so cannot comment on how onerous the limitations imposed by the security patch are. I do feel, though, that there must be something seriously wrong with your security model, if it leads developers to actively seek ways to get around it.

I’m a PC: Linux – life without walls or Windows!

25 October, 2008

I have to admit that the new Microsoft “I’m a PC” advert is quite a clever subversion of Apple’s campgaign featuring Mitchell and Webb. It is, anyway, a distinct improvement on their frankly baffling one with Jerry Seinfeld. However, it leaves a big question hanging – if you haven’t got walls, how do you put in Windows?

The thing is, Microsoft flourished for a couple of decades behind walls built from patent law. They continue to construct barriers to uptake of Free Software by claiming that it violates their patents. It is very likely that the claims would be found to have no foundation if ever tested, but they do serve to intimidate nervous managers. The intimidation is reinforced by the controversial deals that Xandros and Novell struck with Microsoft, which create the impression that Linux has a case to answer.

Fortuanately, it looks like the tide is turning. The SCO groups’s long-running case against IBM over allegations that Linux violated its “intellectual property” ended with SCO filing for bankruptcy following a decision that it didn’t even own the copyrights it was trying to enforce. Then again, Microsoft is starting to look desperate over Vista, and it remains to be seen whether they can regain lost ground with Windows 7. Even with Office 2007, the changes from Office XP and 2003 are significant enough that the learning curve in moving to OpenOffice.org will seem much smaller for many people.

Once installed and configured, Linux is at least as easy to use as Windows for everyday purposes. The advantage that Microsoft continues to enjoy is the near-ubiquity of Windows as a pre-installed and vendor-supported operating system on new PCs, but with the introduction of cheap ultra-portables such as the Asus Eee PC, coming with Linux, many more people will be introduced to it.

A while ago, a friend asked me if I could get him a dodgy copy of Windows XP for a PC he was getting. I refused, and offered to install and set up Linux for him instead. The thing is, so long as people believe that “PC” == “Windows”, so long as IT literacy continues to be Windows literacy, Linux will have difficulty taking off. I live in hope that Microsoft will, one day, effectively manage to prevent piracy of Windows, because it will ring their death-knell. It will mean that people who now would use a pirated copy of Windows will be pushed towareds Free Software, increasing the pool of people with *nix skills. In turn, it will be easier for a company considering a roll-out of Free Software if a large proportion of their employees are already using it at home.